(Ivan Hardwick photo) Returning salmon in the Horsefly River are creating a lot of excitement for area residents, thrilled to see the strong return.

Sockeye salmon return in droves to Quesnel Lake watershed

Horsefly Salmon Festival set to take place Sept. 15 and 16

Organizers of the Horsefly Salmon Festival have something to celebrate this year.

Residents and visitors of the small rural community are starting to witness what the estimates are predicting — the initial, pre-season forecast of 1.14 million fish for the Quesnel sockeye salmon has been adjusted to 2.156 million.

The return is a relief and a sign of hope to many who have been worried about the struggling run for years.

“This year is insane. It’s wonderful to see so many fish in the river,” said Dina Stephenson, Horsefly resident and one of the organizers of the Horsefly Salmon Festival.

Stephenson said after the lack of salmon returns in 2015 and 2016, festival organizers were considering hosting a “what happened to all the fish festival.”

Judy Hillaby, a retired restoration biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and her husband Bruce moved to Horsefly in 2001 just to be close to the fish she spent her career studying.

“I’m happy that they’re back. This is good news — with all the bad stories out there we need some good news.”

Read More: Quesnel Lake fish study gets green light to continue critical work

So what happened to run in previous years? Hillaby said it’s complicated.

“These things are multi-dimensional. It’s not a straight line. There isn’t a simple explanation,” Hillaby said, noting in fish dynamics, stressed populations go into boom and bust cycles.

“In 2009 the run crashed. There were almost no fish. That was an awful shock and a wake up call,” Hillaby said of the year which prompted the Cohen report into the management of the species.

Hillaby said the numbers have been unpredictable and declining since the last large run in 2005. The run came back a bit in 2010, with a bigger run in 2014 — the same time as the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach.

And now this.

“The patterns have shifted. I have no explanation for that. Here we are in 2018, relieved and forgiven for our sins,” she said.

Read More: Salmon closures a devastating blow to North Coast business

“[When the numbers go down] we are always afraid they will never go up. To witness them is a rush — seeing is believing and this year is going to be on a whole other level.”

Now that the run estimate has almost doubled, a sport fishery for sockeye has even been opened at Horsefly Bay in Quesnel Lake from Aug. 23 to Sept. 15.

“Welcome to fish dynamics. This is a fine example of why you have to be conservative, it’s easy to miss-estimate.”

Hillaby said salmon are a heritage and a keystone species in the local watershed, critical to keeping the watershed productive.

To see them back in such strong numbers is exciting for all involved.

“The mood is happiness and quickly going to excitement. Some of us are over the moon.”

Stephenson said after years of fearing for the future of the fish, the big run is a relief.

“It’s the realization now of how precious these fish and watersheds are to us.”

The Horsefly Salmon Festival is scheduled to take place Sept. 15 and 16 along the banks of the Horsefly River.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Letter: Concerned about options considered for caribou recovery

“The exploding wolf population is the cause of the depleting caribou and moose herds,” writes Frank Dorsey

Forestry Ink: Eight companies control 50 per cent of B.C.’s public forest tenures

Columnist Jim Hilton looks at the apportionment of timber rights and Annual Allowable Cut

‘My life was saved at an OPS site’

CSUN raises awareness about Overdose Prevention Services sites on National Day of Action in Quesnel

Historic building in Alexis Creek destroyed by fire overnight

“If it hadn’t been a heavy rain last night we could have lost many houses in the area”

We’re a far cry from justice seen to be done

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Most Read